While most of the general public hisses and moans about the intense Summer heat, guides and anglers in the Keys are conflicted over which of the “big three”, bonefish, tarpon and permit, to target next. Fishing here can only be described in one word, as it always has been during this time of the year, Excellent! The following outstanding outings were all aboard the Maverick Mirage 18 HPX.
Top notch tournament angler Ned Johnson from Atlanta, GA hosted his 6 year old son Georgie on a Father’s Day half-day trip in downtown Islamorada to target bonefish. Young Georgie expertly, and with the poise of a seasoned veteran, cranked up 3 racing and conniving bonefish up to 4 pounds while using ten pound spinning tackle and live shrimp!
6 yr old Georgie Johnson with Bonefish!
Chris Pacheco from RI fished on a windy and cloudy day but still managed to go 2 for 6 on bonefish with the assistance of live shrimp and 8 pound spin tackle. He broke out the 15 pound spinning and drifted back a live crab between floating mats of weed to pick off a sturd 20 pound plus permit from the Tea Table area.
Chris Pacheco & permit
Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale snuck out ultra early to capture the meat of outgoing water near Long Key. He drifted larger 4 inch across the back blue crabs in the dark on 20 pound spin to land explosive tarpon of 80, 90, and 120 pounds, all well before 6 a.m. He added a 3 foot baby tarpon, from a shoreline near Lower Matecumbe, that sucked in a V-waked shrimp on ten pound spin.
Radio personality Bob Puccinelli and friend Jim Pitts from Tampa, spanked the tarpon, going 7 for 13 one morning, doing nearly all of this damage before 7:30. They began by allowing the current to carry crabs near Channel 5 in the dark on the last portion of the outgoing water. They went 3 for 9, boating cavorting silver kings of 80, 90 and 125 pounds on the versatile 20 pound spin. The pair then relocated to a point around Upper Matecumbe and switched to wriggling pinfish to go 3 for 3 on leaping poons of 25, 30 and 40 pounds. They later sight-cast to a 3 foot, weed crashing tarpon with a live shrimp and added him to their count. Their second day began with a 25 pound tarpon smashing a cast live shrimp, and after countless jumps, a clean release. They next caught an 8 pound permit on a live shrimp, and then a robust 25 pounder on a live crab and 15 pound spin that singled out their bait from a ripe tideline near Indian Key.
Bob Puccinelli’s permit
Bill Curley from PA took a 25 pound plus cagey permit on a 3 inch long crab on 17 pound spin, also near Indian Key. Then in the Shell Key area, he nailed a 2 1/2 pound bonefish on live shrimp, and also a mutton snapper. Over 10 miles away, on a current washed point near Conch Key, a threesome of tarpon, all in the 60 pound range, lazily made their way northward, but stopped to inhale Curley’s quarter-size crab. He landed the 5 footer to complete his Super Slam! His very next day began with a 20 pound plus permit audibly sucking in his crab behind the boat in the dark, also on 17 pound spin. He bagged 2 bones on live shrimp just after dawn near Lignum Vitae Key, and then moved to the oceanside of Grassy Key to cast a shrimp to, and fool a 20 pound tarpon, to make it back to back Slams!!
Bill Curley smiling with his permit
Rick Kaye from IL and grandson Justin began their trip with a live crab that was thumped in the darkness adjacent to Craig Key. The 120 pounder was brought to boatside and released. They switched to live shrimp and in quick order piled up 3 bonefish of 2, 3 and 5 pounds. A boiling tide rip by Shell Key, rich with shrimp and crabs, set the stage for their next leg, as permit of 21 and 32 pounds pounded small crabs on the free-drift with 17 pound spin. Then, in the very bottom of the ninth, Justin took the all-important 15 pound tarpon on a live shrimp, just off a mangrove shoreline near Long Key to make a Double Grand Slam!!
Rick Kaye’s gorgeous permit
David Leider from Miami saw a large silver flash under his cork, a 6 foot, 110 pound tarpon that plastered a small crab. After the release, a return to the exact tidal confluence produced back to back permits of 8 and 18 pounds. Leider then landed a pair of bonefish on live shrimp on 8 pound braid near Lower Matecumbe to record his Grand Slam!!
David Leider with Islamorada permit
Don Armstrong from Utah annihilated the baby tarpon using an 8 weight floating line, and banded colored semi-floating shrimp imitation patterns. He had an amazing 31 bites, and removed the hooks from 11 rambunctuous youthful tarpon from 8-20 pounds!
Pierce Scranton and Dave Brzusek came all the way over from Seattle, WA. Dave took a small permit on a kicking live shrimp in the Peterson Key area of banks and then a bonefish from the Ashby Keys. Pierce took a 4 pound bone and then followed up with a 16 pound permit. In the last moments of the day, Dave’s 20 pound spinner came tight while patiently waiting, with a leaking and stinky fresh and punctured mullet oozing on the bottom near Fiesta Key. The 140 pound tarpon jumped more times than seemed possible for a fish of that size, and sealed a Grand Slam for Dave, on his first trip to the Keys! The next day was equally eventful, beginning with a 2 for 5 morning while drifting large live crabs in the darkness near the Long Key Viaduct bridge. Both tarpons were identical, plump and raging 140 pounders. A 2 pound bonefish was captured just after first light, then a 5 pounder by Pierce. Dave bagged a 22 pound permit that slam-dunked a crab near Tea Table Key, and then added 2 muttons for a Super Slam!!!!
Pierce Scranton & permit
Dave Brzusek’s FIRST permit!
Dereck Dibiase and Taylor Cogliano from MA, were blistered after their incredibly busy and diverse outing right in the heart of Islamorada. Dereck scored early with a 90 pound tarpon that crashed a live crab on 17 pound spinning before dawn. At sunup, his live pinfish was gobbled by a long and wide 140 pounder, for a perfect 2 for 2 morning. Dibiase went on to land 2 muttons and a bone on shrimp. Then, at a fertile weedline near Bowlegs cut, he let back a live crab and it was dusted by a 28 pound permit, to cap off his Super Slam by 9:00a.m.! Joined by Taylor for the next half of the day, the couple staked out at 2 different points in the Twin Key zip code, and used 20 pound spin with bloody slabs of freshly caught jack crevalle for nearly non-stop action over the next few hours with Taylor doing most of the hard labor. They caught 3 head-banging nurse sharks up to 80 pounds, 7 violent and chomping lemons, with 5 over 100 pounds, a 40 pound accelerating blacktip and then a 7 foot dangerously thrashing sawfish!
Dereck Dibiase and permit to complete Super Slam!
Tony Arias from Miami, busted out on the first of his 2 days with a perfectly fired shrimp 3 feet in front of some humping & bumping water at dawn to watch a wake aggressively approach the bait. After a subtle “tap” and tight line, Arias landed a rotund 6 1/2 pound bonefish. Soon after, he lasered in a live shrimp and used a slow retrieve on 10 pound spin to fool a yard long baby tarpon that was busting through the weeds on a shoreline near Upper Matecumbe. After some visibility enabled another move, he dropped a nickel-size crab squarely in the oncoming path of a big single tarpon, in clear water near Layton. The tough 130 pounder took 30 minutes on 12 pound spin. Later in the day while drifting a channel near Lignum Vitae Key, Tony cast to a weedline roaming permit with a crab and 10 pound to take an 18 pound permit for his Slam!
Tony Arias and glistening permit
His second day was blessed with some truly class animals. In a basin around the Buchanan Keys, very large tarpons were sipping worms right at sunrise. Sightcasting a live crab, only about 3 feet under the cork, staged the first bite. When the 20 pound mono came taught, a massive fish tried to jump and made it only halfway out of the water. We noticed several items spewed from it’s bucket-size mouth as it threw the hook. Arias reeled in something still attached to the 6/0 Mutu light wire circle hook. To our astonishment, it was a 4 inch puffer fish (blowfish) fully colored, obviously very recently consumed. So much for sophisticated tarpon baits, artificials and flies. Tony’s subsequent 2 accurate drops would strenuously occupy him for the better part of the next two hours. Cast #1 was attached for an hour to a giant 170 pounder, our largest of the year, that could just barely clear the water with its barrel-like girth. Only 5 minutes after returning to the scene, being rerouted by almost 2 miles, another whopper tugged down a live crab and headed for Texas. This 150 pounder was an aerial performer, and disrupted the entire basin in its fight for freedom, eventually succumbing to a quiet and uneventful release. Along the Oceanside of Duck Key, Arias punched out 2 bones on live shrimp and 10 pound spin. At day’s end while searching for permit on a thin flat near the Channel Key Banks, a school of monster crevalles paddled by and erupted on Tony’s shrimp. The 30 pound plus, nearly 5 foot long jack took over 40 minutes to make it into a picture!